Thursday, October 26, 2006

Philly Nights

posted by Majestic Ape at 11:43 AM

So we finally get on the road at about 3:30. There is no gas in the tank. We drive on country roads to pick up Route 95 North, just below Baltimore and skip the beltway completely. There are a few miles between us and the first gas station. About 5 miles away from home, we stop at the first station. There is some yellow murder scene tape blocking one part of the gas station. I think they must be re-paving so I pull in. Jeff hands me the band credit card. I get out and remove our gas cap (we finally got a new gas cap after we were informed it was missing by several hundred New Jersey full service gas station attendants).

Some feller says to me, “We ain’t got no gas. We are all out of gas.”

At the next country station, there is no credit card reader. Jeff goes in and does his magic. I pee for the millionth compulsive time. THIS IS THE LAST TOILET I WILL EVER SEE. MUST EXCRETE ANY DROPS OF REMAINING URINE FROM BLADDER. IF I HAVE TO PEE, I WILL BE BULLIED, HUMILIATED, AND PUNISHED BY THE GREAT SPIRIT OF ROCK AND ROLL.

When we are close to the Delaware border, Erick gets a phone call from the tour manager from the Slits. They are lost in New Jersey. The phone goes to Jeff. He switches his laptop from webpage editor, to essential mapping program, and resets them on the right roads. I don’t think he had pulled out the Conan comics that he’d downloaded yet.

After the phone call, Erick says, “See, Kleiny? You were worried about getting there on time for nothing.” I suspect that the Slits are only 15 minutes away from the venue though. No one bothers to tell them that we are at least 90 minutes away. Nobody cares. I probably shouldn’t either.

The rest of the drive is uneventful. I’m really tense and I have no idea why. I do know why. My set-up has become increasingly complex in the last few months. I now have two amplifiers, two keyboards, a mixer, 5 pedals, two direct boxes, an A/B box, and about 11 instrument, patch, and speaker cables. There are so many places things could go wrong. I am certain that something will go wrong. I suspect that very soon, on stage, during our set, I will be either faced with a dreadful silence, or some horrible screeching noise. I will have no idea where or why it is happening. It will take me 20 minutes to test every cord, patch, connection, amp, pedal, and keyboard. At minute 21, I will be murdered, by a band mate, of course.

The last 20 miles are stop and go traffic. We make comments about the buildings of Philadelphia as we drive into the city. We pass a brand new deluxe condominium building called, “Locust Park.” We pass a skyscraper that is flashing neon words that read, “Happy 50 Jerry.” The words flash one at a time. How much do you think someone paid for that? What if Jerry didn’t drive by that building today? How stupid would the word buyer feel?

I exit from the highway and a few minutes later, I pull up in front of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. This church has been doing shows in the basement for years. Naturally, we have no idea where to park, where to load in, or how to even get in the Church. I just put on my hazards, and block a whole lane of traffic while I nervously search for ANYONE that knows what is going on. Erick just gets out and disappears.

I hear the honking. I can’t take it. I jump back in the van and drive around till I find the right alley and other band vans. There are at least 2 others already and the Slits haven’t arrived. This is a bad sign. At least 4 bands are playing tonight. Why, oh why, do promoters ever think this is good idea?

I find the appropriate parking area and do some crazy maneuver to park us on the sidewalk. We load our equipment down a flight of stairs, into the basement, and directly onto the stage. Shortly after, we meet Breck’s sister, Bianca. She suggests that we go eat at Mama vegetarian. That sounds sort of safe. Maybe.

It’s a falafel place. Not totally safe. I’m trying to be mellow about the food. I eat.

We go back to the church. The Slits have arrived. I meet a few of the girls and they are incredibly nice. This is a very good sign as we will be touring and sharing our equipment with them for the next 3 weeks. The Apes have never toured with an all-female band. The Slits are a legendary band. They started playing the mid 70’s and were part of the original punk rock phenomenon. This tour should be really interesting.

Erick helps everyone set up our amps since they are using our equipment. The little guy does have the capacity to be incredibly cool and helpful when he wants to be. He is a wizard with amplifiers, instruments, and sounds. If you tell him what you want, he can make it happen.

There are two local bands that play before us.

I try on my new costume. It’s tight, but it looks pretty good.

After the two local bands play, we set up. I warm up the audience with some quality talking, while wearing my ski mask and using the vocal effect box. I like to make myself sound like a pre-op transsexual person.

During the first song, I notice that my music sounds incredibly wrong. There are horrible noises coming from my amps. There are around 240 people in the church basement and my shit is dying. Two amps, two keyboards, two direct boxes, a mixer, and A/B box, 5 pedals, 11 chords. What could be wrong? Hmmm….My fantasy nightmare is coming true.

The rest of the show is fun but I am constantly yanking something out, trying to do direct to change my amplifier settings, trying different cords, bypassing pedals, bypassing the mixer. The sounds only get worse. One amp dies completely. This is okay. It is always okay.

We finish. The Slits go on. Erick helps them again because now they have to work around my dead amplifier. They are pretty great. Ari Up is very entertaining and the audience is really excited.

After the show, Erick and I begin testing everything. We find multiple cords that aren’t connecting. We confirm that my little Yamaha combo amp is in fact, dead. And most surprisingly, my volume pedal isn’t working either.

At least we are still in the Continental US.

After load out, we drive through multiple Philadelphia neighborhoods to arrive at the home of a guy named Clark. He is a friend of Breck’s sister. The house is very much a work in progress but three of us have a room and beds. I sleep from 3 am till 8 am. Not bad for me.

When I wake up, I see that Clark has a little bottle of Bach Flower Rescue Remedy. I put a little in a cup thinking this will be a great way to start the day. I will just sit and relax and wait for 4 hours for my band mates to get up. I would go outside but there is no way to not get locked out. I picture myself walking up and down the little street, sitting on people’s steps, trying to find a free, unsecured- wireless internet connection. Actually, I already tried last night. It didn’t work and I got locked out.

I drink my Bach Flower crap. ACCHH! What the hell is this shit? I look at the bottle again. It is wart Remover.


Around noon, I hear the shower.

I forgot to mention that the bathroom in this house is just a big open room on the second floor. There is no door. It’s attached to our host’s bedroom and if you walk up and down the staircase, you walk right through it. I figure this will be the one morning my body wants to excrete feces. I am correct. And of course, it doesn’t go down.

In the refrigerator, I find 1 case of beer, a few potatoes with roots growing, and some pasta sauce. On the window sills, there are lots of whiskeys.

Today we will go to Bard College in upstate New York.

I love New York.


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